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Upholding Love and Loyalty to Christ Through the Ages

The Myrrh-Bearing Women, Our Models of Love and Loyalty to Christ

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On the third Sunday after Pascha, the Church commemorates the Holy Myrrh-bearing women. They remained true to Christ to the end. Nothing could deter them - not even death. Christ died, but their love for Him grew stronger. The Gospel says little about these glorious women. Yet it makes it clear that they were models of love and loyalty. "Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene." (John 19:25).

Then all the disciples deserted him and fled. (Matthew 26:56). Apostle Peter renounced Him thrice. Judas betrayed Him. In the Garden of Gethsemane, the Apostles fell asleep. At the Cross, love and loyalty were put to the ultimate test.

The Myrrh-bearing women stayed by the Cross out of love. They did not flee or hide: one does not flee or hide from the Sun. They did not shirk. "The world has turned around: the weaker half became the braver half," exclaimed the Venerable John Chrysostom.

Christ had not disclosed to them the mysteries of His death and Resurrection like he did to the Apostles. Yet in their hearts, they knew that Christ on the Cross was the Crucified Truth Who would triumph over death. Then, at the end of Saturday these "weaker vessels", departed in the dark to anoint the body of their Teacher. They became the first to see the resurrected Christ and to hear from Him the words that represent the essence of the Christian faith: "Rejoice!" "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

In our time, we need these examples of love, devotion and loyalty more than we ever did in our history. Our world is desperately short of these virtues. As father Sophronius (Sakharov) wrote, we are all in the middle of an ice-filled ocean in a world that no longer prays; and unless we can keep our hearts on fire to defeat the extreme cold, or perish together with this world.

Our world has become a cold place, so we must keep our hearts burning and not allow them to grow cold. The Venerable John of Kronshtadt wrote: "With the grace of the Risen Lord, a Christian lives by resurrecting in the heart; he becomes alive in the spirit; by the Spirit of God, he receives the blessed hope of eternal life at the end of time."

These lines refer us to the core and essence of our spiritual doing - the resurrection of our hearts to live in the spirit while still on this earth.

Coming to life is hard work, and it is much easier to remain dead. Refusing life is more convenient and practical. We refuse life, and we have no need to pursue noble goals or seek the grace of the spirit. We choose to exist between the sofa and the television, the kitchen and the Internet. Some will fill every minute of their days with bogus tasks, hassle and pursuit of worldly illusions. They will keep themselves busy all the time, but in vain.

Civilisations have come and gone. Fashions, tastes and ideologies have succeeded one another. Yet love, loyalty and devotion to Christ have never lost their glory and worth. Like the myrrh-bearing women of old, the Russian church-going women in white kerchiefs prayed for the protection of their countrymen at the most desperate moments in their history.

In our darkest hours, when the burden of our sorrows and temptations seems too hard to bear, let us ask the Lord for the strength to keep our love, loyalty and devotion to our families, homes, the Church and Christ. May we all have the wisdom to see meaning in all things.

Hegumen Tikhon (Borisov) of Optina Pustyn

April 29, 2023
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